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Russia, US urge Security Council meeting after Syria attacks

United Nations diplomats meet during a UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria at the United Nations on March 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations Security Council will hold a meeting on Monday at rival requests of Russia and the United States following an alleged chemical attack in Syria.

Russia called for a Security Council meeting on "international threats to peace and security," though the precise topic of discussion was not immediately clear, diplomats said on Sunday.

A minute later the US, France, Britain, Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands, Kuwait, Peru and Ivory Coast called on the 15-member council to hold a meeting to discuss last week’s alleged chemical attack in Syria.

According to diplomats, an agreement was reached late Sunday to meet once on Monday instead of twice.

The alleged chemical attack on Saturday in the militant-held town of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta region left dozens dead and drew international condemnation from various countries and international bodies.

Damascus, in a statement released late on Saturday, strongly rejected the allegation of using chemical munitions and said that the so-called Jaish al-Islam Takfiri terrorist group, which has dominant presence in Douma, was repeating the accusations “in order to accuse the Syrian Arab army, in a blatant attempt to hinder the Army’s advance.”

Moscow also rejected the accusations against the Syrian government as bogus reports and warned of consequences of an attack on Damascus. 

The warning came after US President Donald Trump promised a “big price” to be paid for what he said was a chemical weapons attack, and a top White House official said the administration would not rule out a missile strike against the Syrian government.

The US and France vowed a "strong, joint response" to the allegation of the chemical attack, which came in the wake of the Syrian Army's push to drive out last remnants of terrorists from Douma.

A picture taken on April 8, 2018 shows Syrian Army soldiers advancing in an area on the eastern outskirts of Douma, as they continue their offensive to retake the last militant holdout in Eastern Ghouta. (Photo by AFP)

Earlier on Monday, Syria's official SANA news agency reported that a missile attack on the T-4 military airport in Homs left several people dead.

US, France deny airstrikes on Syrian air base

The Pentagon denied the report that the US military launched a missile attack on an air base in Syria's Homs province, claiming it was not conducting air strikes "at this time".

"At this time, the Department of Defense is not conducting air strikes in Syria," the Pentagon said in a statement.

"However, we continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable," the statement added. 

The French army also said it did not stage an air strike on the Syrian air base.

Syria surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the US and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry.

It has also consistently denied using chemical weapons over the course of the foreign-backed militancy, which gripped the country in 2011.

Western governments and their allies, however, have never stopped pointing the finger at Damascus whenever an apparent chemical attack takes place.

In April 2017, a suspected sarin gas attack hit the town of Khan Shaykhun in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, taking at least 80 lives. Accusing Damascus, the US then launched several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base, taking the lives of about 20 people including both Syrian soldiers and civilians.

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